The Dallas Stars took full advantage of starting the short season at home, beating the Phoenix Coyotes 4-3 in front of what the Stars organization called a sold out crowd.
With only a week of “training camp” under the team’s belt, it was obvious the chemistry that many fans were accustomed to seeing with a group of Stars veterans is something this season’s team, full of new blood, is still searching for. Plays occassionally seemed disjointed and confused, and penalty problems made the game a little more interesting than many would’ve preferred.
The guys did appear to get into a groove as the game progressed, and not only were power plays more productive than in previous years, penalty kills were dominated and congestion in front of Kari and the crease seemed a bit more controlled.
Jaromir Jagr made quick work of whittling away at the rumors of his play-when-he-wants-to reputation, scoring two of the Stars’ four goals and putting up two assists. He was welcomed warmly by the fans during player introductions and all but guaranteed his name will be seen on at least a few jerseys at the next home game.
Ray Whitney also found himself in tonight’s spotlight, scoring one of the night’s tie-breaking goals and adding on an assist of his own.
The remaining veterans on the roster refused to disappear into the background though, with Loui Eriksson putting up an assist and scoring the night’s game-winning goal, Stephane Robidas tacking on two assists, and goal tender Kari Lehtonen facing 40 total shots on goal.
Derek Roy was the only other Star to notch a point on the roster with an assist on Eriksson’s game-winner.
Season openers always provide an opportunity to see where a team has to commit genuinely hard work post-training camp, and tonight was no exception. As has become almost the norm from previous seasons, penalties, both in severity and frequency, will plague the Stars if left unchecked. Five penalties in ten minutes is nothing more than an easy-bake recipe for disaster, as evidenced by Phoenix’s dominance during the second period.
The Stars defense also faces an uphill battle in keeping the puck away from the net, a familiar challenge for many of the roster’s defensemen. In previous seasons, and especially during tonight’s game, the Stars have been lucky to have a goal tender in Kari Lehtonen who has an eagle eye and doesn’t give up easy goals. But 40 shots on goal in 60 minutes signals the beginning of what could be a very long season for the Big Fin.
Regardless of what needs to be worked on, what’s still coming together, or what worked tonight, the Stars started the season with a win at home. Surely such an outcome will bring confidence to a team full of new players, encouragement to a fan base that has spent far too long groaning about lockouts and watching the playoffs from home, and reignited interest in a franchise that has fought to be recognized as a powerful Dallas team for the past 20 years.
Next on the schedule for the Stars is a battle against the Minnesota Wild in Minnesota. You can catch the game tomorrow night on Fox Sports Southwest at 7:00 p.m.